RCA Radiola 60

 

Old radios really do glow at night, especially well when you turn the lights off.

Old radios really do glow at night, especially well when you turn the lights off.

 

TubesRadiola60

This inside view shows most of the tubes on the right. Notice the ‘RCA’ logo on each. RCA called them ‘Radiotrons’. To the left you see the three separate air variable tuning capacitors that are ganged together and operated by one dial – a big advancement!

I am a radio collector. I should probably say that I am a radio accumulator. That would be more accurate. A true collector seeks only the best and is constantly improving the collection. He or she upgrades the collection, restores items, and follows a meticulous maintenance schedule. I miss the mark on all counts.

I am better described as a collector suffering from attention deficit disorder. I have so many collections that I never seem able or willing to spend adequate time attending to their needs.

Top60

The Radiola 60 (AR-954) was sold from Sept. 1928 to Sept. 1930. It was the first radio to combine the advanced superheterodyne circuit, mains power supply, special AC tubes, and one-dial tuning.

This prologue brings us to my Radiola 60. I have several friends that I met at my last place of employment and I have been eager to have them over here to share my collections with them. I finally succeeded when Stefan contacted me to inquire as to how I was doing. I suggested that he come on by to find out and while he was here I would finally hand over to him a couple of items he expressed interest in. They were old Atari game consoles, the 2600 and 5200 models. I even had some cartridges to throw in. Well, Stefan did come by and I did get a chance to show off some of my radio collection. That’s when the Radiola 60 decided to give me some trouble.

I wanted to demonstrate how nicely this 1928-1929 radio worked.

Tubes produce a unique glow that is best observed with all the lights out. Coincidently, many believe that that is also the best way to listen to Old Time Radio (OTR) shows.

Tubes produce a unique glow that is best observed with all the lights out. Coincidently, many believe that that is also the best way to listen to Old Time Radio (OTR) shows.

I flicked the switch and waited….and waited … and waited. The tubes lit up, a single station was heard faintly for all of four seconds, and that was it. I really made a convincing demonstration of how neat old radios are; not.

It bugs me when a working radio suddenly refuses to perform. I always worry that it may indicate a capacitor failure and the need for more restoration work. Fortunately for the Radiola 60, it has a rather stout power supply section. I suspected that the main problem was neglect and haste. So, I removed and then reinserted all tubes and attached the antenna (20 feet of wire rather than 2 feet). That was all I needed. The Radiola plays nicely now. I have created a video of the radio in operation and you can find it below:


The model 60 is a special radio. I first learned about it when reading an advertisement on Craig’s List. A local collector was selling his Radiola 60.

The cabinet for my Radiola 60 was made by Jamestown Mantel of Jamestown, NY. RCA would have contracted with them. Apparently Jamestown Mantel went out of business in 1930, a victim of the depression.

The cabinet for my Radiola 60 was made by Jamestown Mantel of Jamestown, NY. RCA would have contracted with them. Apparently Jamestown Mantel went out of business in 1930, a victim of the depression.

The photograph displayed in the ad showed a long and low radio that was housed in a beautiful wood cabinet. I contacted the seller and made the purchase. I also made a lifelong friend. Steve, the owner, showed me his entire collection. It was in the basement. His basement looked like a grocery store from 80 years ago with the exception that the shelves were stacked with all sorts of antique radios. I was especially fascinated by the old TRF (Tuned Radio Frequency) radios that made up most of the collection. Steve even had some neat old Crosleys with the strange book-style compression capacitors! Eventually I purchased several radios from Steve. He then retired  (he designed microprocessors – amazing stuff) and moved to Arizona. His parting gift to me was a complete Philco Model 90 cathedral-style radio. I just have to do some cabinet work and finish installing the chassis. It will be done, Steve. I promise!

So, the next time I invite someone over to see one of my collections, I think I will do some maintenance first. That just may work out better. Stefan, if you are listening, it is working now … really!

NatGeoFeb29

References:

Radio Manufacturers of the 1920’s, Volume 3, by Alan Douglas, 1991. This link brings you to a sample of the actual book on Google Books. I have physical paper copies of all three volumes that Alan wrote. They are great! I can’t believe that you can read most of the Radiola section right on the web. There is even a Google App for reading these books.

Radiola, The Golden Age of RCA, 1919-1929, by Eric P. Wenaas, 2007. This is an awesome book that is worth the full price asked for it. ARC has an excellent online review of the work. Also, if you click on the title (above) it will bring you to a Google site that actually lets you read about a third of the book for free! Just click on the ‘Preview this book’ link. You will also find my review of Mr. Wenaas’s book there too.

Prendegast Library, web page, The Furniture Industry, Jamestown, NY, The Development from 1816 to 1945.

Antique Radios, The Collectors Resource, web site, discussion of the Jamestown Mantel Company.

The Radiola Guy, a web site by C. E. “Sonny” Clutter.

Restoration of RCA Radiola 60, by T. E. Croley II. This is a real nice PDF that documents a restoration of a model 60 and the tapestry speaker.

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Occasional Commentary, Radio: Amateur & Broadcast and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *